Police went to ‘great lengths’ to use appropriate tactics at vigil

People leave floral tributes at the band stand in Clapham Common, London (Steve Parsons/PA)
People leave floral tributes at the band stand in Clapham Common, London (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Wire)
18:52pm, Tue 30 Mar 2021
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Policing protests can “look ugly” but officers at the Sarah Everard vigil went to great lengths to use appropriate tactics, a Met force chief has said.

Assistant Commissioner Louisa Rolfe spoke out following a watchdog report that backed the force’s handling of the event on Clapham Common on March 13.

She told the PA news agency that, while scrutiny is important, commentators should not rush to judge police actions before the full circumstances are known.

The Met Police faced a barrage of criticism including calls for Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick to resign after protesters were bundled to the ground and arrested.

Nine people were arrested at the event, thought at its peak to have been attended by around 1,500 people.

Ms Rolfe said: “Scrutiny is important.

“Our officers all wear body-worn video.

“We absolutely expect them to have body-worn video switched on when they’re involved in protests but also particularly if they’re going to be making arrests.

“Some of the outcomes speak for themselves.

“I’m not aware that any protester received any injuries.

“The officers went to great lengths to ensure that tactics were appropriate.

“Policing is complex and it can look ugly.

“The scrutiny is really important but also to not rush to a hasty judgment and ensure that you’re aware of the full circumstances.”

From around midday to 6pm a peaceful vigil took place on Clapham Common, with visitors placing floral tributes near the bandstand.

But at around 6pm police claimed there was a tipping point where large crowds gathered and the event became “a hostile rally”.

Ms Rolfe said: “The organisers set about organising this with the very best of intentions and for a really good cause.

“We’re all saddened that the event became somewhat hijacked and we will look at all the feedback.”

Campaign group Reclaim These Streets (RTS) had originally planned the vigil on March 13, but cancelled their event after accusing the police of failing to engage with them.

Police officers form a line as people gather in Clapham Common (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

RTS and Lambeth council both warned police that the event was more likely to become unlawful after the official vigil was cancelled, because measures such as stewarding would be removed.

Ms Rolfe said: “Before the organisers contacted police, there had been so much national publicity I think 1,200, potentially thousands of people had expressed an interest in attending.

“When they came to us it was already a somewhat unmanageable event.

“The organisers wanted a guarantee that there would be no police enforcement action but were describing an event that to us, we were concerned might get to that stage.”

The force has said it will continue to review the report and welcomes recommendations that allow it to improve.

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